Shalev Ben Ya’akov has been performing for soldiers, tourists and at other benefit events for over 10 years. Recently he had the chance to be on TV on the Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born) contest. The popular TV show launched the careers of such mainstream Israeli pop stars as Shiri Maimon and Shai Gabso.
"I got to the third or fourth round," said Ben Ya'akov of the contest. "They had me perfom on a moving train. I didn't even know where it was going, I just enjoyed playing music for people." His song, performed in a folk acoustic style, was based on the Purim story. By the end of the song, the entire train was singing along and clapping their hands.
IDF soldiers who attended Ben Ya'akov's performance suggested he compete on the TV show. It's one of the many interesting places his music has taken him. Last year he accepted an offer by some IDF fans to go sky diving.
With long hair, a big knit yarmulke and sandals, Ben Ya'akov has been living in the Hevron area for the past 17 years, both in Hevron proper and the Kiryat Arba suburb, just a short walk away from the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Another one of Ben Ya'akov’s many gigs was in the Ari synagogue in Tzfat for a group of Christian tourists from Alaska. Ben Ya'akov noticed one woman who was so inspired by the music, he thought she must be Jewish. Afterwards, she came up to him and whispered to him that she in fact was Jewish.
The story is similar to Ben Ya'akov’s own life, which he tells in a song-story format and in third person. The story is about two boys, one Christian and one Jewish and a round-about return to Jewish roots. He performed it live in the Israel National Radio studios on The Beat with Ben Bresky. It can be heard here in part 2 of the interview:
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Ben Ya'akov has released one CD, a benefit for the Chabad House of Hevron, which combines songs and stories, including his autobiographical one told in Hebrew.
In the IsraelNationalRadio interview, Ben Ya’akov gives some thoughts on composing music:
"A few months ago, I was in the Shlomo Carlebach moshav, Mevo Modiin. I prayed there for Shabbat. I had a song come to me. On Shabbat, you can’t tape it or record it. After Shabbat, sometimes you remember it and sometimes you don’t. This one came so strong. When you get a song, its almost like you’re in another world. But I forgot it. But the next Shabbat, when I prayed the Shabbat services again, it came back.
"The Jewish people are like this. Everything is inside of us. A similar story goes that someone wrote a song but he forgot it. Twenty years later, he saw someone on the street, and the song came back to him. Then he remembered, when he made the song, this person was with him, and he hadn’t seen this person in years. So it’s all there, all our faith and light. Everything that we’re supposed to be and going to be, it’s all inside. And it’s just waiting to happen. When I came back to the same state of prayer in the same place, the song came back to me.
"I want to tell all the Jews in the world, when we come back to Jerusalem, to Hevron, to Shechem, to Lebanon, to all the places we’re supposed to be in, the song will come back to us. I’m just so sure of that. We will remember our melody and come back to who we are and what we’re supposed to be. The world is waiting for it."
Shalev Ben Ya'akov can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org